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Winter 2000

Mr. Stevens Goes to Washington

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STEVENS ARRIVED AT UCLA in April 1946 as a second-semester freshman. Before the war -- during which he was a pilot in the China-Burma-India theater, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses, Air Medals and the Yuan Hai medal awarded by the Republic of China -- he had spent a semester at Oregon State University. He buzzed through UCLA in just 19 months, graduating in August 1947 with a bachelor's in political science and a minor in economics.

He was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and, for a while, lived in its fraternity house.

"I have many fond memories," Stevens says. "I was just out of the service. Practically all the people I had gone to college with before the war were dispersed around the world, and many didn't return.

"My aunt and uncle raised me there in Manhattan Beach. I just felt I had been away a long time, and so I decided I would go to UCLA. There I met a whole new group of people. We worked hard, studied hard, played hard."

Colleges and universities throughout the country were swamped with returning veterans with money from the GI Bill lining their pockets. It was a strange time, Stevens says. "They were anxious to help us get on to somewhere else," and requirements were waived and credits were given for wartime training "so we could get out the door and on to graduate school."

Among Stevens' courses was a life-changing constitutional law class taught by James Allan Clifford Grant, a political science professor and former department chairman who died five years ago at age 93.

"He inspired me to go to law school," Stevens says. "He was sort of a mentor, talked to me a great deal. He was very interested in counseling young guys who came out of the service. Professor Grant helped me a lot because he thought I had a knack for the law."

After UCLA -- to which Stevens still is connected as a board member of the School of Public Policy and Social Research and as a life member of the UCLA Alumni Association (he received the Alumni Association's Professional Achievement Award in 1971 and the Public Service Award in 1984) -- he enrolled at Harvard University's law school. His law degree took him to Washington, D.C., where he met and married his first wife, Ann, and worked in a small firm with Alaska clients. (Ann was killed in 1978 in a plane crash that Stevens miraculously survived. He married Catherine Bittner Chandler two years later.) From the D.C. law firm, Stevens landed a job in Fairbanks, where he was soon appointed U.S. Attorney. There are marvelous stories, which Stevens insists are overblown, about him strapping on pistols to lead the way during police raids. Some Fairbanks old-timers say a picture of him with a pistol on each hip used to hang in the county courthouse.

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